Tag Archives: creativity

Evidence For The Existence Of Ghosts

So, this is the first draft of a sonnet that I wrote last night.  It came out of an idea I had while reading a book on cosmology.  Wonder what you think?  It’s the first draft only, so I may fiddle with it later.  I have called it: 

.

Evidence for the existence of ghosts
.

“Ghosts!?  You think a corpse can radiate

across The Void (so wide and dark)

a spectre of what’s past?  Disincarnate?

And why?  To send an omen?  Make dogs bark?

Really!  No ghoulish world beyond can light

the soulless dark, bewilder nature’s laws, extend

beyond the grave.  This lonely truth is right:

Not one thing lasts beyond its natural end.”

I held my tongue.  I could have spoken back,

except those long-dead shades whose pallid eyes

that glimmered hushed me from the silent black.

Standing still beneath those star-filled skies

I knew that for those present-long-dead suns

I need not speak.  Their argument was won.

.


Copyright (c) Matthew Wingett, 2010, in all media

My New Word – “Synecdoche”

Okay, so I’ve got to share this with you because I think it’s one of those unusual words that I didn’t know existed. I was just reading Seamus Heaney’s notes on the Anglo-Saxon poem, “Beowulf”, and this really unusual word jumped off the page.  When I find new words I get as excited as an amateur naturalist finding a new species of beetle.  Here it is:

“Synecdoche.”

It’s pronounced to rhyme with “select a key” – so: “Si NECKED a key”, with the stress on the second syllable.

The context it was in was to describe the Old English word “ecg”, as used by the Anglo-Saxons.  It is pronounced “edge” – and interestingly enough, means “edge” – as in the edge of a blade.

Now, here’s the thing.  In Anglo-Saxon writing, the word “ecg” doesn’t only mean the edge of something.  It stands for far more – because it can also means “sword”.  What happens is that the part of the object referred to gets to stand for the whole thing.  So, “ecg” by transference, also means “sword”.

That’s synecdoche.

You’ll hear synecdoche all the time in modern English, where the part stands for the whole.

For example:  “Here comes Big Mouth,” is a good example, although in this case, you could argue that the part stands for the hole.  Another example would be: “Who’s the suit?”

And it’s not only used this way.  It can also be used the other way round, where the whole stands for the part.  “The street was jumping for joy” doesn’t normally mean that houses, lamp posts and gardens were involved in uplifting athletic activity.  Just the people, normally.

Another form of synecdoche happens when you talk about the container of something when you mean its contents.  For example, when you say: “I’m just going to boil the kettle”, you don’t actually mean that you are going to get a kettle, put it in some form of crucible and watch it first melt and then bubble off as kettle vapour.   Nope, as far as I understand it, you are going to boil the water in the kettle.  And when you say “Do you take plastic?”, it doesn’t mean you can pay for your goods in empty milk cartons.

Then there are the words in which you use a specific class name to refer to a single thing.  I’m not sure, but I think the annoying habit of a friend of mine to refer to all women as a “Doris” might fall into this category. “I was out with this Doris the other day, and…”  He’s a nice looking boy, and the only Doris I knew of was an elderly lady with a blue rinse with a penchant for knitting.  When he tells me this, I see him in my mind with his hairy chest and open-necked shirt in a swanky bar, seducing a woman in pink carpet slippers and 1950s glasses, who will take her teeth out and put them in a jar at the side of his bed, before the evening is out.  Which pleases me no end.

Finally, there’s the version of synecdoche which is a general class name that refers to a individual items.  To be honest, this one I don’t really get.  With “Prepare to abandon ship”, for example, it’s pretty obvious that it means the ship you’re on.  You know, the one that’s sinking.  Besides, abandoning someone else’s ship means getting on to it in the first place.  Which I suspect would be counter-productive.  I think that’s a form of synecdoche, but I’m not sure.  Synecdoche is, after all a new word for me, so I am sure there is much more to learn about it.  What I know is just the tip of the iceberg.

So, if anyone can shed a bit of light on that final class of synecdoche, I will be most pleased.

In fact, to be synecdochetic about it, I will be all smiles.

🙂

Paul McKenna and Me 10: Take-Off

On the very first day of the NLP Practitioner course, Hazel had gone up on stage with Richard Bandler, and had her bad memory removed.  We had spoken about it later.  She could still remember the bad memory, but the strong emotions that had been attached to it were no longer present.  She had been freed from the horrendous emotions that were the result of a highly manipulative and abusive relationship.

Witchcraft at Work

That first day, her eyes had changed colour.  From a dull grey to a light, bright blue.  Her skin tone, the way she held herself – everything about her had changed.  The effect had been so strong that I had even asked her if she had put in blue contact lenses in the break after she had been on stage.  It was a spectacular change.  The fear had gone, and the confidence had come in its place.

Nevertheless, there were other things that she wanted to deal with.  Getting rid of the bad memory was only part of the equation.

In my interview with her in preparation for the constellation hypnosis, Hazel had said that she wanted to become a successful NLP Trainer and teach so many others the things that would empower them and give them a better life.  But there were things that stood in her way.  A non-supportive family and an ex-partner who was still trying to make her life hell. Even though she now knew he was powerless, he still cast a shadow over her life – and she would be required to have some connection with him because she’d had a daughter by him.

She saw her resources as her personality, her determination and the skills she had learned to take control of herself through NLP.  It was a fairly straightforward combination of factors.

As she sat infront of me now, with James sitting off to one side, I began the hypnotic induction on her, all the while my mind racing with ideas.  And as she relaxed and I saw her move deeper down, into trance, I felt myself dropping down, too, joining her in that swirling half-conscious state.

A Cockpit, Surrounded By Machinery

It was then that I began to have an auditory hallucination.

As I began my tale… once there was a little witch… a white witch… who found herself trapped in the dungeon of an evil magician, staring out from the bars of a cage and only able sometimes to see the stars and the skies… something strange began to happen in my head.

The work that Paul had done with me: “Turn it up, double it, turn it up again” had at the time presented itself to me in my mind’s eye as a  bank of lights in some kind of sci-fi machine – as if a 1970s airing of the cult tv series Doctor Who was being run in my head.

There was machinery in there, in my head.

I could hear the low hum of energy running through a grid in my mind, and then I had the fleeting image of a control room, filled with banks of switches.  It was as if I was in a power station somewhere, or bizarrely, in the cockpit of an extraordinarily powerful aircraft.  I could hear the click of hundreds of tiny relay switches being flicked over in my head, and I seemed to get the image of hands flicking more and more switches and someone saying “check” as those hands moved.

The low hum grew stronger, until it finally sounded as if the whole of that strange room, that powerplant and cockpit, had been flooded with power and white light.  A deep, low, earthy hum that seemed to vibrate the core of my being, and which at the same time seemed endlessly and ultimately powerful.  It was as if I had discovered a massive spaceship that had been mothballed for a long time, and now was at last being dusted off to work again.  I eyed the banks of lights and switches with wonder.  Had they always been here, and I just hadn’t noticed?

All the while, on the outside, I continued to talk – a stream of metaphors about a little white witch who one day recovered the book of spells that the evil magician had taken from her – she was handed it through the bars of her prison by a wise old wizard.  And so she went about secretly collecting the things that she needed, using her magic arts to gather them to her.  A pole of hazel wood, and the twigs to make a broom.  A wand that she learned from the book how to wield with a power that made her invincible.  And all the while she would stare up at the stars and at the moon.  One day, she uttered a single spell and broke down the walls of her prison, and found that it was nothing at all, except a pile of words, and that squirming in the pile of words was a sickly, squirming weak old frog who she trapped in a box and cast in the sea, forever.

On her broom, she took to the sky, and flew upwards and upwards towards the light of the full moon, and she became a star, hanging there, the brightest in the sky – and acted always to shine her benign light, this Witch Hazel, to guide those who were lost and take them to safety.  Because she was the brightest light in the sky, whom the lost blessed and loved.

And as I told this tale which was, after all, a simple but beautiful tale, I felt a tear drop from my eye and run down my face.  All around me I could feel and hear the power surging, I could see the night sky from the windows of my ship, and knew that I was about to launch on to my own journey.

Then the room of the hotel came back into being.  I looked at James.  He was sitting looking at me with his mouth wide open, as I guided Hazel back from trance.

“Wow,” he said.  “I don’t know what just happened.  But wow.”

Back in the room,  I felt suddenly deeply excited.  “It’s about using archetypes,” I told him.  “It’s about just plugging into the archetypes and using them exactly how you want to use them.  You are completely free to do it.  And – God! – it’s so easy.  It’s so goddamned easy!”

Hazel, out of her trance was smiling at me with the most radiant smile.

It worked.  The ability to just think on the hoof and tell a story from nothing.  It was mine again!

The Woman Inside Of Me

When I was 23 years old I had the strangest dream. I remember it vividly even now, nearly 20 years on.

I was living in a cottage on the Isle of Arran, off the West Coast of Scotland, where I had taken myself to write a book. The cottage was a whitewashed old place on a farm, with walls made of two layers of local stone, with rammed earth between to keep the wind out. In order to open the windows in the thick walls, I had to stretch deep into the window alcove, nearly bending double to do so. Being so thick, the walls also kept out the sound of the outside. It was a silent space.

Upstairs, the bedroom had a wooden ceiling following the angles of the roof. At night, the window looked out on to dark, brooding fields, and a sky filled with bright stars. The full moon would cycle round once a month, shining a milky light on to my bed, with me in it.

I slept deeply in that room. The soughing of the wind in the gables was the only sound, except sometimes I would hear the scratching of a mouse scurrying up over the roof.

I was a sensitive soul, and I had gone up there partially to write a novel, and partially to be cured of a broken heart. I was a romantic wanderer, I suppose.

One night, I was lying deep, deep in sleep in this silent place. As I slept, I dreamt that the spirit of a woman came to me. She was a strange creature, with a face as white as moonlight. She wore a winding sheet – or if not that – then a floating white cotton night dress. Her face was cold and she looked at me with a definite intent, though to do what I could not be sure. Her hair was blonde – not white blonde – but the colour of ripe straw. If I were to say that she was anything, then she seemed like a goddess of the wheat. And I don’t mean that she was a spirit from a bottle of fermented barley.

A Spirit Hovered Above Me

She floated closer, hovering over me, and I could feel her cold breath on me. I realised that she was going to float down and smother me. And it was then that I woke up with a short, sharp gasp, staring into the night.

And as I looked, she was still there in front of my eyes, lowering herself towards me.

I found that I could not move, and as she came closer, I tried so hard to cry out. But somehow I was held in a helpless trance, unable to move and unable to scream. I was shaking with fear. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as her body and face pushed closer. I knew something terrible was going to happen.

And then, her body touched mine. And she continued to sink down until she completely disappeared inside of me.

As she did so, I felt a huge wave of resignation and relief wash through me. I had a feeling as if of an unwinding of a massive tense spring in my stomach, and I suddenly felt grateful and happy for her presence.

She has stayed with me, inside of me for years now. There are times when I feel that I have lost her. But she comes back when the time is right. When I am in contact with her, I feel at my most confident. I am able to organise my thoughts, and I am able to write coherently and from the heart.

I have no idea who she is, except that she is me.

Dreams are the strangest things. I do not know what that dream was, nor do I want to know, but thanks to that dream I am more comfortable in my skin than I ever was before. That dream marks the time when I stopped being a boy and I became a man. It is also the time from which I count my life as a writer.

All of this, thanks to the woman inside of me.

The Birdwoman of Southsea

Walk into a pub in the Banana Republic,  not far from the old Royal Marines Barracks on a Sunday afternoon, and you might be lucky enough to hear a woman singing some jazz numbers, backed by a pianist and a bass player.

She lilts out the numbers with a steady ease, lifting her smooth voice over the drinkers’ pints as they gather for a relaxed pubday afternoon, and weaving for a moment little pockets of joy and sadness, laughter and tragedy from that oh-so malleable raw material: sound.

“No Moon At All” – Helen MacDougall and her Musicians

This singer, with her dark hair and her lean figure I think of as The Southsea Birdwoman.  She has sung in pubs and in clubs around the south of England, and she has played gigs to big audiences down at the Southsea bandstand.  Thousands have basked on the grass by the sea, or danced swing, while her full band has filled the air with jumping rhythms.

But there is far more to the Birdwoman than being a singer.  She is an unusual, massively gifted individual who has the hands of a builder, the muscles of an athlete and the voice of an angel.

Helen MacDougall - The Southsea Birdwoman

Catch her on a summer afternoon down at the beach.  She lives only a four minute walk from the solid shingle incline that shelves down to the sea.  If you time it right, and the wind is in the right direction, you will find her taking wing on the waves – windsurfing over white horses, catching the air in her sail and scooting over the spray.  Her tensed arms and her solid body taking on the elements, allow her for a moment to soar over the pale-green Solent on her single, white wing.

At work, you may find her in the trees, helping kids to find greater confidence by climbing with rope and harness up into the canopy.  Or she may be at work building a bivouac, or showing kids how to light a fire and make artefacts out of wood: little pots from bark, perfectly made, with a lid and a base, as if a little craftshop has sprouted in a glade.

And at home, you may find her building her nest: hammering and sawing, making little additions to her home.  The decking she built at the back of the house is a genuine feat of construction, with pillars of wood sunk deep into concrete, and a space where a tree has been given room to grow up through a hole specially cut.  This is a sociable watering hole she has made, a lucky horseshoe of seats for friends to gather in the back garden on a summer’s day.

Indoors, for warmth in the winter, she has built a fireplace.  She poured and set half a ton of concrete to build a suspended constructional hearth herself, and then put in place a cast iron Victorian fireplace.  She has reboarded the downstairs floor, painted and decorated the whole house.  Upstairs, completely unafraid, she took a circular saw to a wall in order to extend a room and build a clothes cupboard from the narrow space where an old boiler tank used to live.  And she plastered over the place where the original door was so that it is now impossible to tell that it was any other way.

Consider her now: singing for all to hear, or flying on her windsurfer, or hopping high up in the trees – or again – building her nest – and now you understand why she is the Birdwoman of Southsea.

he Southsea Birdwoman

Walk into a pub in Eastney, not far from the old Royal Marines Barracks on a Sunday afternoon, and you might be lucky enough to hear a woman singing some jazz numbers, backed by a pianist and a bass player.

She lilts out the numbers with a steady ease, lifting her smooth voice over the drinkers’ pints as they gather for a relaxed pubday afternoon, and weaving for a moment little pockets of joy and sadness, laughter and tragedy from that oh-so malleable raw material: sound.

This singer, with her dark hair and her lean figure I think of as The Southsea Birdwoman. She has sung in pubs and in clubs around the south of England, and she has played gigs to big audiences down at the Southsea bandstand. Thousands have basked on the grass by the sea, or danced swing, while her full band has filled the air with jumping rhythms.

But there is far more to the Birdwoman than being a singer. She is an unusual, massively gifted individual who has the hands of a builder, the muscles of an athlete and the voice of an angel.

Catch her on a summer afternoon down at the beach. She lives only a four minute walk from the solid shingle incline that shelves down to the sea. If you time it right, and the wind is in the right direction, you will find her taking wing on the waves – windsurfing over white horses, catching the air in her sail and scooting over the spray. Her tensed arms and her solid body taking on the elements, allow her for a moment to soar over the pale-green Solent on her single, white wing.

At work, you may find her in the trees, helping kids to find greater confidence by climbing with ropes and harness up into the canopy. Or she may be at work building a bivouac, or showing kids how to light a fire and make artefacts out of wood: little pots from bark, perfectly made, with a lid and a base, as if a little craftshop has sprouted in a glade.

And at home, you may find her building her nest: hammering and sawing, making little additions to her home. The decking she built at the back of the house is a genuine feat of construction, with pillars of wood sunk deep into concrete, and a space where a tree has been given room to grow up through a hole specially cut. This is a sociable watering hole she has made, a ring of seats for friends to gather in the back garden on a summer’s day.

Indoors, for warmth in the winter, she has built a fireplace. She poured and set half a ton of concrete to build a constructional hearth herself, and then put in place a cast iron Victorian fireplace. She has reboarded the downstairs floor, redecorated and painted it all. Upstairs, completely unafraid, she took a circular saw to a wall in order to extend a room and build a clothes cupboard from the narrow space where an old boiler tank used to live. And she plastered over the place where the original door was so that it is now impossible to tell that it was any other way.

To consider her now: singing for all to hear, or flying on her windsurfer, or high up in the trees – or again – building her nest – and now you understood why she is the Birdwoman of Southsea.

She is an amazing character, a kind and good hearted individual – and one, I am pleased, to call my friend.

A Little Boy, Lost In The Moment

A tiny moment of pleasure.  Scene: The Street Outside An Acupuncturist’s Clinic on Palmerston Road, Southsea.  Time: 3 p.m.  The shop is divided into the clinic, and a private living space, and the door to the living area has been left open.

As I walk down the street I hear the sound of a piano being played, and passing an open door, see a little Chinese boy of around 5 years old intensely concentrating on the keys of a piano as he falteringly produces the tune to “Camptown Races”.  I stand by the door and listen as he works his way gradually up the keyboard, changing the key as he proceeds.

A still moment.  The traffic and people pass by outside, and he is totally focussed on his music. He’s not brilliant at what he’s doing, and he makes mistakes.  But he corrects his mistakes, and carries on, teaching his fingers to pick out the notes in a certain order.  I absorb his total concentration, as if it, too, is emanating from the room on to the street.  Sensing him totally absorbed, feeling his way – learning, co-ordinating, learning, persevering.  The sound is not pretty, but enchanting – and it tells a story.

We live in a muddled world, and that makes it fun, too.  That little Chinese boy lives in a Victorian house in Southsea, where the English general public are treated with Chinese medicine, and plays a Black American tune on an old German piano.

I stand and enjoy.

These are the little pleasures of life.

Signs and Wonders, 1: Rodent Racers

Red Squirrels: the shocking truth revealed in this investigative article by Matthew Wingett.

While driving in the Lake District last year, this little beauty of a sign caught my eye.

Although clearly not addressed to me, I did marvel at the intelligence of the Lakeland red squirrel; firstly at its ability to read, and then at its paw/eye co-ordination.

I decided to make further investigations, and contacted the Office for National Statistics regarding the number of red squirrels killed on the road in traffic accidents.

The results are shocking.

It turns out that a large proportion of red squirrel road traffic accidents are alchohol related, with dangerously high levels of blood-alcohol being detected in 45.8 per cent of red squirrel road deaths.

It is disturbing for nature lovers like myself to realise that the bucolic idyll of country life has such a dark underbelly.

Along with high levels of alcoholism in the red squirrel community are other addictions, mainly to nuts and acorns.  Squirrels have a tendency to hoard their nuts in all manner of places.  In fact, a recent survey revealed stashes of nuts in a field near Worthing, up a pig’s anus and in a cumulo-nimbus cloud.

The Red Squirrel Road Safety Action Forum, the Penge-based group of militant socialist squirrel-fanciers and road users also point out that the British red squirrel is in decline due to heavier traffic volumes in the last few years.

“The red squirrel has not adjusted to the new road conditions, and still imagines that we live in the England of the 1920s, when other furry British mammals, such as Ratty, Mole and Badger did not drive, leaving the roads open only to aristocratic, non-hopping amphibians, and squirrels,” he informed me, while fixing me with a slightly intense stare.  “But since rats, shrews and even immigrant gerbils have taken to the road, the high speed antics of the British red have led to just one tragic result: car-nage.”

In a secret location at the Dog and Duck in Penge, the spokesman also hinted at more sinister reasons for the shocking decline of the British red.

“Let’s be clear about this, apart from not being able to see over the dashboard and press the pedals at the same time, which makes driving inherently dangerous for the British red, we have to bear in mind that most squirrel mechanics are greys,” he hinted darkly.

“The American grey has the body mass needed to replace wheels, lift engines out of engine bays and service vehicles.  And…” he supped on his Babycham and checked over his shoulder to see if any rodents were listening before continuing. “They like to gnaw.  On brake pipes.  I bet that’s a statistic not held by the ONS,” he slurred as I plied him with more fizzy alcoholic drinks once fashionable in the 1970s.  “You know why?  Because the ONS is run by greys, too.  It’s a conspiracy.”

I was distracted from our interview for a moment by the sound of feet scurrying away from a table nearby.  Whoever had been sitting there had left behind no clue as to whom they were, except for an empty bag of peanuts and a copy of The New York Times, from behind which, the Penger assured me, “they” had been listening.

A call to the ONS asking for details on the amount of red squirrel road accidents caused by gnawed brake pipes received only a stunned silence at the other end of the line.  A query as to the species balance in the government-run organisation was followed by a high-pitched Texan rodent voice aggressively asking me for my name and address.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Grey Squirrel Mechanics Alliance was unavailable for comment.

ADDENDUM:

Last night, I was awakened by the sound of the clinking of tools outside, and I looked down from my bedroom window to see small, furry movements underneath my car. It was clearly a dream.  I will be taking a drive in the country later today.